Hawaiians have and continue to use plants to heal. One such plant that is commonly used to this day is ʻōlena, also known as turmeric. It’s likely you’ve had ʻōlena before, as it is a common ingredient in curry sauces and powders.
ʻŌlena arrived in Hawaiʻi with the Polynesians who migrated here. If you see the plant above and below the ground, you may notice its resemblance to its cousin, ginger. In fact, ʻōlena has a similar growing season to ginger. The above ground parts die back in the winter (just like ginger) but when it does, don’t think the plant is dead and gone. The rhizomes (what many refer to as the roots) are alive and well underground and ready to sprout once the weather warms up again.
In Hawaiʻi ʻōlena is prized for its medicinal qualities. It can be used fresh or dried, juiced, grated, whatever suits your needs. The powder that is sold in grocery or health food stores. It has a unique flavor, color, and taste.
ʻŌlena is said to be useful for:
- Nasal ailments
- blood purifying
- immune system strengthening
- wound healing
- ear infections
- antioxidant properties
Some swear by a mixture of ʻōlena with coconut milk and black pepper (to aid with absorption) to help with insomnia. Others take ʻōlena capsules daily as part of their overall health regiment.
ʻŌlena is easy to grow. Just get a piece of rhizome, stick it in the ground and wait. Soon enough, you should see the stem appearing. It grows well in pots, in garden boxes, or directly in the ground.